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What to see and do in the Queenstown region

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With such a plethora of adventure travel on its doorstep, Queenstown itineraries are predictably awash with the tastes of adrenaline and energy. ‘The great outdoors’ comes part and parcel to any trip here, while some of the more refined New Zealand activities, from wine tasting to scenic excursions, are always reassuringly close to hand.

Mike Watt

My Destination local expert on

Queenstown (NZ)

Otago Wine Regions

 

Queenstown is the gateway to Central Otago, a vast region of rugged hills and rolling fields that’s made its name as the world’s southernmost producer of commercial wine. The commanding views offered by Mt Difficulty Winery in Bannockburn, make it the perfect place to stop for lunch. The Wooing Tree in Cromwell and the family-owned Brennan Wines in Gibbston have established themselves alongside older names like the Gibbston Valley Winery as premier producers of Pinot Noir in the southern hemisphere and undisputed musts on the itinerary of any wine enthusiast.

 

The Skyline Gondola

 

The Skyline Gondola deals in one on Queenstown’s most prolific currencies: Heart-stopping panoramas. From the top, 220 degree views of the city, Lake Wakatipu and its surrounding peaks have made this classic cable car a quintessential ‘must-do’ of any first-time visitor, while the selection of activities on offer here – from fine buffet style dining to downhill luges – keep Queenstown regulars coming back for more.

 

Scenic Tours

 

Cruise companies including Southern Discoveries, Kiwi Discovery, Real Journeys and JUCY Cruize provide convenient access to Milford Sound with a range of coach and cruise packages. The TSS Earnslaw steamship and the modern catamaran of the ‘Spirit of Queenstown’ offer contrasting ways to cruise Lake Wakatipu. For those looking to take to the skies, there’s a whole range of (some otherwise unreachable) destinations to explore; from the snow-tipped peaks enveloping the fjords to the north, to the mountains of Glenorchy on the cusp of Wakatipu’s shoreline.

 

Hiking and Biking

 

Hikers and bikers alike flock to Queenstown for the pristine natural surroundings and wild outdoorsy feel of the marked trails on offer. For the former, some walks start in Queenstown itself and encompass all the major pulls of the nearby area – from the waterside tracks of Lake Wakatipu, to the 360 degree panoramas on the Ben Lomond summit. For bikers, the Queenstown Trail offers a variety of easy-going terrain and incorporates many of Otago’s wine hot-spots, while the Queenstown Bike Park attracts the more adventurous with extreme runs and New Zealand’s only gondola-assisted bike lift.

 

Skiing

 

Queenstown enjoys easy access to four separate resorts all within a 90 minute drive from town. Closest to town, the Coronet Peak and Remarkables resorts offer a range of beginner to advanced on-piste skiing, while the family-friendly Cardrona resort to the north is well equipped for lower level riders. All ski destinations can be easily reached by car or shuttle busses that regularly depart in the high-season, while the largest resort at Treble Cone is served by a Ski-Link shuttle that runs from Queenstown central.

 

Golf

 

The Queenstown region is a treasure trove of golfing gems, from the championship grade courses at Millbrook, The Hills, Jack’s Point and Kelvin Heights, to the locally-loved Arrowtown Course, which offers magnificent views over the mountainous Queenstown-Lakes District and something of a home-grown feel. For the informal golfer, a nine hole course and driving range is open year round in the Frankton district.

 

Bungy Jumping

 

Ever since the pioneering adrenaline junkie AJ Hackett first popularised the extreme sport worldwide from his base on the Kawarau River in Queenstown, bungy lovers have flocked to the region to take the plunge. Today the Queenstown bungy jump is the stuff of connoisseurs; the Nevis Highwire boasts New Zealand’s highest descent (440ft), while the somewhat ominously named Ledge offers patrons a running jump from the top of the gondola station.

 

Jet Boating

 

Now something of a rite of passage for any adventure seeking Queenstown newcomer, the Shotover Jet catapults patrons over 85kmph through the tight-knit gorges of the Shotover River Canyons. Both K-Jet and the Thunder Jet in town give visitors the opportunity to longer one hour journeys across Shotover and Kawarau rivers. Further out, Dart River Wilderness Jet departs from Glenorchy, and combines a jet boat trip with a guided tour in Mount Aspiring National Park while Wanaka River Journeys offer an alternative guided jet boat option from Wanaka.